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Outdoor Furniture

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We all need inspiration right now. This is the perfect time of year to look outdoors and get going on an enjoyable project. As we wait for spring to arrive, why not spend a little time thinking about how you might improve your available outdoor spaces for the summer?

Outdoor "rooms" are super popular and can include everything from a small deck, a narrow balcony or a covered porch to a generous backyard. All over the world, there are examples of families enjoying dining al fresco: Think of Tuscany, the south of France or even a Hawaiian luau. Who doesn't have fond memories of backyard cookouts that take advantage of the cool evenings after the sun goes down in the Northeast or Midwest?

Budget is the realistic place to start. Dreamy settings in magazines or books rarely speak to the damaging issues of sun, dirt and moisture in all their various forms, and you get what you pay for when it comes to outdoor durability. Sun and heat can warp, split and shred materials that are not engineered to take the damaging level of exposure just as assuredly as mold and rot can extinguish the life of furnishings in the northeast. P

roducts that are the most durable can also cost a little more, but realize that they will last multiple seasons. If your budget doesn't allow for high quality, then buy inexpensive items that you are prepared to throw away once they rust or rot. It's a trade-off.

Fortunately, these days there are hundreds of exciting elements at all price points that can be artfully blended into yummy outdoor settings that not only appear as comfortable as an interior room, but can thrive outside.

Begin with one of the amazing outdoor rugs on the market today in order to establish a sense of comfort and softness. Shown here is an exciting new design made right here in the U.S. in Dalton, Ga., which has been the carpet capital of the world for generations.

Designed by Laurie Bell, a textile designer who is a former chemist sensitive to the challenges of outdoor living, this rug is made of UV-resistant quality yarn that is also heat-set and twisted to become softer.

It is solution-dyed polypropylene, which means that the fiber is more resistant to fading than when a fiber is dyed after being created. Rugs made from these fibers are able to fight against mildew, fading and staining. Generally, for day-to-day cleaning, you can simply hose the rug off.

This one costs just under $800. I bought a much smaller outdoor rug last summer for about $300 and found that my rug cleaned up very easily. Because I am lazy and didn't want to scrub it after each rain throughout the winter, however, I have it rolled up in my storage shed for a few more months so that I can protect my investment. I am assured it will last for years.

Know that there is also a multitude of very decorative fabrics available from various outdoor manufacturers, like Bell or Sunbrella, Chella Textiles, Perrenials and others. Choices used to be very limited to solids or stripes, but now you can introduce the same style influences that create a feeling for the inside of your home from traditional to cutting-edge contemporary. Vibrant seasonal color is available for use on awnings, umbrellas, chair cushions and fun accent pillows.

Remember that lighting can create an exotic mood more than any other single element. There are battery-operated floor lamps and table lamps, or you can light under your umbrella with low-voltage twinkle lights. Use your Christmas lights for the spring and summer if you are on a tight budget.

If you lack funds for a durable outdoor rug, pick up something inexpensive at a second-hand store that you can toss out if it gets damaged by weather. Spiff up the furniture you already own, and replant pots with flowering items.

Photo Credit: lauriebell.com

Christine Brun, ASID, is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Small Space Living." Send questions and comments to her by email at christinebrun@sbcglobal.net. To find out more about Christine Brun and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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